Wednesday, 30 April 2008

First-million story #1 - Do whatever it takes

Marco and Sandra Johnson started out saving lives in their community of Lancaster, Calif., and ended up running a multimillion-dollar business whose customers come from across the United States.

The idea was born on the job. Marco, a full-time firefighter and paramedic, would come home from an incident and complain to Sandra that lives might have been saved if bystanders had been able to administer first aid. At the time, the Johnsons were trying to have a second child, and Marco was particularly upset when "children died unnecessarily because no one at the scene knew CPR," says Sandra.

In 1997, they began offering CPR and first-aid classes to local businesses. Sandra handled scheduling and other arrangements, and Marco taught classes between shifts at the firehouse. At first they borrowed material and equipment and brought it to each site; after a few months they scraped together enough money to rent a 400-square-foot office.

The business started to take off when workers whose jobs require CPR certification, such as schoolteachers and bus drivers, sought them out. Then students asked them to start training emergency medical technicians because local junior colleges had a two-year waiting list for EMT classes. Within a few years, the Johnsons had become accredited for EMT training and moved their Antelope Valley Medical College to bigger quarters. "Everything was happening fast," says Marco.

Riding the momentum took seven-day-a-week stamina. Marco alternated shifts at the firehouse with classroom duty, and Sandra was "always on the phone" setting up appointments. The couple didn't want to take out a business loan, so they plowed their own income into the school and sometimes put off making mortgage payments on their house to pay their employees. Says Marco: "There were times when it was a gut check. We looked at each other and said, 'What did we get ourselves into?'"

Now the Johnsons can breathe easier. In 2004, their school was expected to pull in revenues of $7.5 million, and their corporate clients have included businesses from Boeing to Burger King. That boom in business has given the couple the means to own several houses and to treat their extended family - a group of 12 - to vacations in Hawaii.

Even more rewarding, says Sandra, is the example they can set for their children: To accomplish your dream, "do whatever it takes." As for herself, "We're saving lives. It's awesome to know I was part of that with my husband." And Marco is finally planning to retire his fire helmet.

Tip #1: Go flat out. Between shifts at the firehouse, Marco Johnson, with his wife, Sandra, started a school to teach emergency medical techniques.

Friday, 25 April 2008

How to make a million dollars: 9 first-million stories

Today, I am starting to publish 9 real stories about making that first million. Original stories can be found here

Saturday, 5 April 2008

136 Million Dollar Lottery Winner

According to The Associated Press, David Sneath has worked at a Ford Motor Co. parts warehouse for 34 years, but it didn't take him any time at all to walk out once he discovered he had won a $136 million Mega Millions jackpot.

"I yelled to the boss, 'I'm out of here,"' Sneath said Thursday after going to state lottery headquarters in downtown Lansing to pick up his first $1 million check.

Sneath, of Livonia in suburban Detroit, said the reality of his win has yet to sink in.

"I still haven't touched base with Earth yet," he said. When he saw in a newspaper that he had a winning ticket, "my whole body went numb."

Sneath plans to buy a cottage on Mullett Lake in northern Michigan and maybe a new fishing boat or two to help him land the walleye he loves to catch. He's tired of misplacing his glasses and may get laser surgery to correct his vision. And he'll probably move out of his three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home, although he plans to stay in Michigan.

He's even considering a return to Eastern Michigan University to finish his bachelor's degree. He's eight credits shy of a major in warehousing and a minor in international marketing.

Sneath turned 60 on Tuesday, the day he won the jackpot. Friends and relatives at first thought it was an April Fool's joke.

"I called my sister; she didn't believe me. I called my daughter; she thought I was nuts," said Sneath, who said he made his first call to his ex-wife, Deborah.

Deborah, whom he called "my significant ex," attended the Thursday news conference where Sneath was presented with a large replica of a $136 million check. His daughter was there with her daughter, as was his son, who had bought the winning ticket on his father's behalf during trip to a gas station to get cigarettes.

Sneath plans to take a lump payment worth $84.3 million, or $59.6 million after taxes. On Thursday, he got the first $1 million; he'll get the remainder in a second payment. At the warehouse, he made $60,000 to $70,000 a year.

A self-described "character," Sneath generally kicked in $6 a week with four co-workers at his job in Brownstown to buy lottery tickets, spending half the money on tickets for Tuesday's draw and half for Friday's.

This time, his son bought him $15 worth of tickets, picking numbers Sneath suggested. The winning combination — 4, 17, 26, 46 and 56, plus 25 for the Mega Ball — were numbers Sneath once got as a random pick and continues to play.

But his four co-workers didn't entirely lose out. He plans to give them $1 million each out of his winnings.

Despite his longtime association with Ford, he said he won't be using any of the money to buy one of his former employer's vehicles.

"I worked for Ford Motor Co.," he said. "I won't be buying a Ford product."

Sneath's $136 million jackpot may seem like a lot, but it doesn't even come close to the record. The largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in March last year, given to two winners in Georgia and New Jersey.

Mega Millions is a multistate lottery game offered in Michigan, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington state. Jackpots start at a guaranteed $12 million and grow when no one wins the jackpot.

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